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AP FACT CHECK: Trump seeds race animus with COVID falsehood

Former President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd prior to speaking at a Save America Rally Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz.

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump falsely declared in a weekend rally that public health authorities are denying the COVID-19 vaccine to white people because of their race.

The former president seeded racial resentments in remarks that twisted the facts on public-health policy and exaggerated the effects of racially conscious antiviral treatment guidelines in New York.

From his speech Saturday night in Florence, Arizona:

TRUMP: “The left is now rationing lifesaving therapeutics based on race, discriminating against and denigrating … white people to determine who lives and who dies. If you’re white you don’t get the vaccine or if you’re white you don’t get therapeutics. … In New York state, if you’re white, you have to go to the back of the line to get medical health.”

THE FACTS: No, white people are not being excluded from vaccines, of which there is a plentiful supply. And there is no evidence they being sent to the “back of the line” for COVID-19 care as a matter of public health policy.

Trump distorted a New York policy that allows for race to be one consideration when dispensing oral antiviral treatments, which are in limited supply. The policy attempts to steer those treatments to people at the most risk of severe disease from the coronavirus.

It says that nonwhite race or Hispanic ethnicity “should be considered a risk factor” because long-standing health and social inequities make people of color more likely to get severely ill or die from the virus.

Trump extrapolated from that to assert wrongly that white people are being forced to “the back of the line” for health care and being shut out both from vaccines and therapeutics.

Michael Lanza, a New York City Health Department spokesman, told the New York Post that race is not used to deny treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found late last year that Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people were about twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic whites and were notably more likely to be hospitalized. An earlier Associated Press analysis of the pandemic’s first waves found that COVID-19 was taking a disproportionately heavy toll on Black and Hispanic people.

CDC research in October reported that people in certain ethnic and racial minority groups were dying from COVID-19 at younger ages and a report from the institution Friday said minorities are less likely to receive outpatient antiviral treatment than whites.

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Klepper reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

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